Thanks to our Navy

This week was the Navy’s 243rd birthday. It may seem odd coming from an old (older!) soldier, but I must wish my Navy comrades and their families “Happy Birthday!” Our Army gets to work walking, driving or riding, flying, and YES, sailing to faraway places. Without our Navy, and the Marine Corps, we would not be the dominant land force we are.

My first experience with the US Navy was around 1966, when my mother and I were sailing “space available” on a Navy ship from Oahu, Hawaii where we lived at Schofield Barracks, to see my father in Japan, for his two week R&R from Vietnam (rest and relaxation, NOT!). The ship’s captain allowed me, a rambunctious 12-year-old, free run of the ship, as long as I told the sailors where I was going. I had a blast.

Years later I sailed on the USS America, then a non-nuclear aircraft carrier, from off shore Norfolk (where my battalion of special operations aviation Chinook helicopters met the ship) enroute to scenic Haiti, for what was planned to be an invasive change of government and turned out rather less exciting…but still time consuming. I came way from those many weeks with a profound admiration to those that make their professions at sea, and especially those that defend us all from the sea. As a commander later in Albania/Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, my admiration grew. As I relate in my memoir Marathon War, in Afghanistan I had senior naval officers in command of multiple Provincial Reconstruction Teams in remote eastern Afghanistan; I had Navy aircraft overhead fighting and jamming as we needed; and I had the top cover of the most senior officer in the United States, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, a Navy Admiral, a frequent leader/visitor to my area of operations.

Sailors are a special lot: they often spend months at sea or flying over it, without frequent contact with loved ones; they work in constant close contact for incredibly long shifts, sleep a few hours, then wake and do it all over again. Many never see much of the ocean they sail on, because duties keep them belowdecks. Like all of us in military service, they rely on each other to a degree most who have never served will not understand. Our lives depend on each other.

Over the centuries, sailors in our Navy have withstood hurricanes, broadsides, torpedoes, kamikazes, silkworms, boat launched IEDS, fast boat swarms, and so much more. All to support the rest of us from the sea.

This weekend, thank our sailors and vets, and their families. They are American patriots!

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